Considering she was approaching 100, she was doing fine. She still planned dinner with her daughters most days, even put on a few pounds. She enjoyed having a cup of coffee with the neighbors at 4:00 every afternoon, nodding when they spoke of a son getting engaged or how expensive cherries were at the market. When her eldest son FaceTimed her, stroking his new silver-fox goatee proudly, and asked, “Do you know who I am?” she squinted at the screen. “Of course,” she said without a trace of irony. “You’re a very old man at the end of your life.”
Chain of Fools
It’s a sun-drenched cut-grass balmy-air day and I’m speeding down the street in a borrowed jalopy as Aretha wails One of these mornings on the radio hair tousling elbow out the window feeling strong when I see my boo with his Frank Zappa moustache and winning grin driving the other way and I wave the chain is gonna break and I laugh and my heart thumps chain chain chain and that’s when I notice the concrete truck crossing from a side street in front of me and I pump the brakes like mom taught me to do but nothing happens and I turn the wheel hard and I’m parallel with the beast looming next to me its whirligig thing mixing concrete ready to pour and the road is narrowing and I’m pounding the horn chain chain chain but nothing comes out and I scream and I scream and the driver looks over and the “O” of his mouth is like the “O” of the concrete chute and he jams his brakes that Omigod work but now he’s scowling and I’m squid-armed and quaking and now I can never say thank you mister I’m still alive I’m still alive I’m still alive.
Kathryn shares what inspired the writing of these two stunning pieces:
“All’s Well”: This piece was inspired by the surreal experience of observing an elderly, though mostly cognizant family member responding to her son’s FaceTime call as if speaking with someone much older than herself in a bizarre, albeit somewhat hilarious, role reversal. No one in the room was quite sure if it was dementia-fueled disorientation, if failing vision and hearing caused a genuine confusion over what and who was on the other side of the screen—or if she was just plain pulling our legs and teasing her son. A mystery that shall endure. I decided to keep to the very tight framework of a 100-word story to focus sharply on the resonant moment, as well as to honor the nearly 100-year life of this remarkable woman.
“Chain of Fools”: Nearly being annihilated by a 30-ton concrete truck made a vivid impression on my teenage psyche and has haunted me over the years. The underlying theme of this prose poem/lyric essay is how oblivious to danger we can be when we’re sixteen or seventeen, how invulnerable we feel. The thrill and distraction of seeing my boyfriend driving the opposite way converged with the massive truck cutting me off simultaneously with the sudden loss of my brakes—a near-disastrous chain of events. I chose Aretha Franklin’s iconic song not as an allusion to infidelity but rather as a reference to the foolhardy decisions we sometimes make—especially in our youth. I was a fool for not paying attention to the road, the truck driver was a fool for crossing a major street when a car was approaching and perhaps my boyfriend was a fool for being so damned cute. Aretha has always been a favorite of mine and when I remember the joyfulness I felt just moments before that encounter, it is her exuberant, sensual voice I imagine blasting from my car radio. I decided to write this piece in one long, breathless sentence to convey the heady sense of excitement, joy, and terror I felt by turns, that day.
Kathryn Silver-Hajo’s fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry appears, or is forthcoming, in Citron Review, Pithead Chapel, Atticus Review, Ruby Literary, SoFloPoJo, Fictive Dream, New York Times-Tiny Love Stories, New World Writing, Flash Boulevard, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Bending Genres, Cleaver Magazine, The Ekphrastic Review, and others. Kathryn lives in Providence, Rhode Island with her husband and sassy, curly-tailed pup, Kaya. Discover more at kathrynsilverhajo.com and follow her on Twitter: @KSilverHajo and Instagram: Kathrynsilverhajo
“All’s Well” was first published in The Drabble and “Chain of Fools” was first published in Unbroken Journal.